Correspondence from the Nostalgia Retirement Villa; from ‘he’ll’


By Nathan Dueck

Nostalgia Retirement Villa
R.R. 1 Stn. Main
Rat River, MB
R0A 0T0

September 17, 1972

Postmaster General Joseph Julien Jean-Pierre Côté

Whither Canada?

Dear Sir:

I have noticed that a pigeon is seldom caught unawares. By nature, that ubiquitous genus, Columbidae, has brought ordinary men into contact with what would seem diabolical ‘coo’-ing and odious, shall we say, stool, about which I have no space to waste. I long to speak of a postman, a mere messenger pigeon, under your employ. I have grown familiar with the murmuration of pigeons after years of verdant leisure, and could relate divers tales of these dove-cousins, were I so moved, at which aged men would grin spittle and take delight in spite of their toothless gums. But I will waive that grim satisfaction to address one pigeon’s death, an end as strange as any I e’er saw or heard of. While of other fowl, a magpie or what have you, I might shrive about continual agitation or complete apathy, of this nuisance especially I mean to attempt nothing of the sort. A pigeon of such arcane caricature was struck dead by one of your mailmen fleeing his duty, and furthermore its fetid carcass smote the dandruff from a gentlewoman who fled said postman. She was the first of those two birds brought down by one stone.

Ere relating that enigmatic incident as it unfolded before my astonished orbs, I also must elaborate upon your wrongdoing, your wrong-headed postman, your egregious wrong-footed postal clerk, and my subsequent hand-wringing.

The accosted crone, who does not know how closely she mirrors Ethel Merman because she abhors the indulgent vanity of picture shows, corresponded daily with her descendants about her profound advice for a long life. Hence, though she belongs to an advanced age that is proverbially lax and listless, even to the point of lethargy, she waits on the daily rounds of your postman in her recalcitrant ignorance. For a woman of Mennonite lineage, with social morals and cultural mores, doing nothing often leads her to feel wholly useless, or even less useful than that. The rude business was done to my neighbour lady by a pigeon while she pursued your postman. The curmudgeonly victim, a personage little given to poetic grousing, could not restrain herself from pronouncing a solitary cuss word. She did not speak vaingloriously, but to simply comment, plainly, ‘I would prefer not t–,’ as she was stricken full on the jowls by a winged rat. It was an insouciant turn of phrase, I attest, that she loved to repeat, for the surfeit of it perfectly suited the cowardly indignation of Anabaptist convictions about defenceless, fist-clenched pacifism. But what of the impotent war they wage against armed aggression?

Well after the period at which this pithy tale begins, the old woman implored that I, her tattler, foul [sic – Conceivably ‘fondle’ as in ‘maul’? Or, feasibly, ‘molest’?] these pages to craft a letter of mewling complaint in my pidgin English on her behalf. The beguiled hag, who was almost laid waste in her caducity, beseeched me to beg remuneration for she can no longer cluck along with her plucked cursive quill.

I am, etcetera.

Reprinted with permission of the publisher from he’ll, by Nathan Dueck, Pedlar Press, to appear in mid-June 2014.

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Nathan Dueck

The last two letters of nathan dueck's first name & the first letter of his last spell “and.” Only he prefers writing it “&.” He's the author of king's(mère) (Turnstone, 2004) and he’ll (Pedlar, 2014). & he tweets @nathandueck.